A/N: So this idea came to me after reading a whole bunch of awesome AU stories about Bella being something other than human, which makes the love story a bit more exciting in my opinion. Since the idea wouldn't get out of my head I just went with it. This will eventually be a Bellice story, so no worries there.
This is an AU story starting out in the time after the Cullens left Forks. I took some liberties with shifter mythology, though I probably won't change anything about the Quileute pack.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight, only the few extra characters I threw in.
Nine months. It had been a total of nine months since he up and left me. October to June. That's how long I had been moping around like a moron, hoping that he might come back one day. Hell, I could have had a kid in all that time! Not that I would, but still, he would have never known. It took me a whole four months to break out of my catatonic state, and that was more for the sake of my father, who threatened to send me away. However, I knew no matter what I couldn't go back to Arizona. Not only would the heat burn all the memories away, but I couldn't burden my mom like that, she deserved so much better.
That's not to say that my father deserved what I was putting him through. No, Charlie deserved so much better from me, but I couldn't help it. It felt like an entire part of my very being had been ripped out of my body. And it wasn't only the absence of him, though it was pathetic that I couldn't even think his name without feeling a deep pain in my chest. No, it was the fact that they all left me without so much as a goodbye.
I expected better from them. Okay, maybe not Rosalie, but the others, especially Alice, who claimed to be my "best friend". Some friend she turned out to be. Running away without even trying to talk to me. Now, I do realize that she had to go with her mate, but you would think that she could of at least talked to me one last time, right?
Somehow I had managed to graduate with relatively good grades, even without feeling a damn thing for the last semester of school. Yes, I had somehow ignored all my pain, did my work, and got my diploma with the rest of my class, a terribly fake smile plastered to my face the entire time. But I didn't celebrate like the others, after all, what did I have to celebrate?
In my bout of depression I had missed the deadlines to apply to all my colleges, so I just decided to take a year off school, to get my head on straight. At least, that's what I told Charlie. In reality I had no idea what the hell I was going to do now. In retrospect, I had been an idiot not planning a future separate from the family that had abandoned me.
Looking back at the past few months, I had to admit that at least one good thing came out of all my pain: Jacob Black. He had become like a personal sun in my life, one piece of happiness to break up all the depression. However, even he had been flighty lately, calling less and less. It was inevitable I guess, that he would leave too. It seemed like anyone close to me had been leaving lately.
Taking a deep breath, I tried to push my thoughts out of my head as I hiked up a trail in the middle of the woods. See, I had been trying to find The Meadow for a while now, hoping that maybe it could give me some closure. Thankfully, for sake of my mental health, I had given up hope that they would come back a while ago. Now I just wanted the pain to go away, even a brief time without it would be a miracle.
But, just like the rest of my life, nothing could be easy. This was the twelfth time I had come into the woods on the grid pattern Jacob had drawn out, back when he would actually come with me. I was probably on my fourth solo hike, and for some reason, this time I had become completely lost. Once again, nothing's easy…
A sharp pain in my toe had me cursing and looking down at a log that I had accidentally kicked. Oh the wonders of being a klutz… I growled in my head. Strengthening my resolve, I ignored the pain in my toes and pushed onwards. After about another half an hour of cursing and almost falling over I stumbled face first into an open space.
Looking up I realized that, somehow, I had found it. Before me was an beautiful open space with flowers swaying gently in the breeze, making the whole place look as if it was some sort of brightly colored lake. Letting loose a victorious shout, I pushed myself onto my feet and ran to the center of the space before falling and rolling onto my back. Exhaustion gripped my limbs, the warm sun on my face made me drowsy, and the feeling of accomplishment made this the best moment of my life recently.
So of course something had to shatter it. I heard a loud snap over to my left, followed by a smooth voice calling out to me. Looking over, I saw one of the people that I had guaranteed myself I would never see again. There, walking towards me in a strangely calm manner was Laurent.
"Bella, how nice to see you again." I would never understand how their words sounded so elegant.
"Laurent, what are you doing here?" I sat up quickly, wary of his intentions. He was part of James's coven after all, or an ex-member I guess all things considered.
"Oh, you know. Passing through, seeing the sights, noticing that your coven seems to have left you." His words came out as if he couldn't care less, but I didn't miss the way he stared intently at me as he spoke.
"Their just taking a small hunting trip is all." I tried to lie smoothly, figuring I would be safe if he thought I still mattered to them.
"A hunting trip? One that lasts over nine months?" He mocked me with a laugh. "Sweetheart, don't lie to me, it won't end well."
"You never told me why you're here." I stated. I was surprised that I wasn't more scared for my life. Maybe it was the adrenaline that pumped through my system in response to the two glowing red eyes staring at me, or maybe it was the fact that my self-preservation mechanism was totally messed up when it came to vampires.
"So pushy." He laughed. "Fine, you want to know? Victoria is still a tad pissed at your mate for killing hers. So she wants you dead. A mate for a mate and all that." He dismissed with a wave of his hand. "Just be glad I told her I'd take care of you. She would torture you until you were begging for death, and still keep you alive for a while after. As for me? Well, I'm hungry, and you'll do nicely as a meal."
With that he started languidly walking towards me, making no move to use his ridiculous speed to catch me. On the other hand, I was scrambling up to run, no matter how futile it was. I didn't want to go down without a fight.
As soon as I began to run he was in front of me. Quickly, before I could even register what was going on, he had picked me up by the neck and flung me across the meadow where my back stuck a tree. The bark groaned from the impact, or it could have been me, but before I could figure it out he was upon me again.
"Fine, if you want to struggle I'll have a little fun with you." He grinned and placed a foot on my chest. A split second later a sharp snap resonated around the meadow, more than likely my ribs, and my scream of pain soon followed, echoing around the meadow. Multiple coughs raked through my body, and I felt a warm liquid fall from my parted lips. At the scent of blood Laurent's eyes darkened, and his tongue traced over his lips. I knew that it would be all over soon; that I would be nothing more than a corpse drained dry. He began to lower himself to get access to my neck, staring me in the eye the entire time.
Then, for some unknown reason, he straightened up and backed away, a terrified expression on his face. I was dumbfounded, what could make him not only stop feeding, but terrify him? He was a vampire for god's sake!
I got my answer a second later when an earsplitting snarl sounded through the entire forest. A huge animal soon followed the howl, entering the clearing with its fangs and claws bared and a deep growling resonating in its chest in the most threatening display I had ever seen.
Taking a closer look at the animal, I found I had no idea what in the hell it was. I knew it was a feline of some sort, the features made that clear, but the thing was huge, at the shoulder it was probably five feet tall. A huge, bushy tail, at least the length of the body, swayed behind the cat. Its fur was a deep black on the back, and dark gray on the underbelly and inner legs. The entirety of the pelt was dotted with white and gray open rosettes. It then hit me that the thing looked like a snow leopard with an inverted color scheme, but you know, freaking five feet tall.
Laurent took one look at the monster and turned tail to run, but stopped at the sight before him. Emerging from the trees were a six-foot tall lioness and a leopard at a shoulder height in between its two companions.
Caught in between the three giants Laurent crouched down, no doubt coming to the realization that there was no way he was getting out of here. I felt a tickle on my right arm and looked to see the snow leopard's tail resting on me, but the creature didn't take its gaze off of the vampire. Somehow I knew that it was trying to comfort me, to tell me that I was going to be fine. Or maybe I was going crazy and hallucinating from the injuries I had sustained.
Then, without no much as a sound or a twitch, the two cats at the other end of the clearing leapt in perfect synchronization, the lioness flattening Laurent to the ground, and the leopard sinking its giant fangs into his body. I was amazed as I saw the teeth pierce the flesh I had always believed to be impenetrable. The meadow was suddenly filled with the screams of pain of my would-be attacker, and I found I couldn't look away as the two felines worked together to tear him apart, my stomach turning over at the sight.
A giant, fuzzy black wall suddenly shielded me from the scene. I looked up to see the snow leopard crouching down in front of me, its eyes raking over my body. As I stared into the two pale green orbs I saw a deep intelligence in them, an intelligence that could never belong to a normal animal. It was also then that my body decided it was going to tell me that I was in intense pain. My midsection protested at every breath, I couldn't feel my left arm, and I kept coughing up blood. I hissed in response to the feeling, and I swore I heard the beast hovering over me whimper quietly.
The screams died down, and the two other felines soon joined the strangely colored snow leopard crouching over me. A strange chirping noise came from the lioness, followed by a rumbling growl from the leopard. I was suddenly gripped by the thought that now that their plaything was dead, these two would turn on me next. However, the snow leopard let out a noise similar to a cat's purr, surprising me, and strangely comforting me. The mixture of the noise and the blood loss had my eyelids drooping in fatigue.
I hardly noticed as the snow leopard's head came closer and closer to me, but I definitely noticed when its huge jaws wrapped around my midsection and the sharp fangs sunk into my flesh. I guess I was wrong about it wanting to protect me, now it was going to eat me. What a wonderful was to go out.
Instead of tearing, or even biting me again, however, the black cat began running its tongue over the wound, and amazingly, I saw that my blood began to flow slower and slower, until it stopped all together. I looked up at the cat again as it lifted its head, and I swore I saw it smirk at me.
The image of three giant felines was the last thing I saw as a sudden blackness overtook my vision, and I slipped into unconsciousness.
When a semblance of consciousness came back to me I had the strange sensation of floating. I couldn't feel anything in my body, which made me wonder if I was dead. My limbs wouldn't respond to my thoughts, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get my eyes to open.
"How much longer is she going to be out for? This is getting ridiculous." I heard a voice somewhere in the endless blackness. The voice made me hope to hell I wasn't dead, considering it was rough and I could practically feel the irritation of the speaker, who I assumed was female.
"I have no idea. All I have to go on is Danni, and she woke up after a day. But her heart is beating, and that's all that matters. Now if you're really that bored, go out for a run or something." Another voice spoke. This one was much more pleasant to listen to, belonging to another woman by the sound of it. Her voice was smooth and calm, yet commanded respect from the first girl.
"Fine, I'll go find Danni." The rough voice said.
"I'd rather her first experience with you two not be…" the pleasant voice trailed off, no doubt the owner trying to figure out how to word something correctly, "unsettling."
"Dear Goddess, I'm not planning on having sex with her, I just wanted some company." The first girl growled.
"Sorry, but I know I've had to listen to you two before, and it's not exactly the most fun thing to do."
"It's not my fault Danni gets you to scream so loud." The second girl retorted, sounding rather smug.
"I hate you a little bit. You know that, right?"
"Love you too Rikki. Now get out of here."
Soon after I heard footsteps fading the darkness seemed to invade my senses, and I was pulled into a blissful unconsciousness once more.
The next time I came into consciousness I found I could open my eyes, thankfully. As I opened them I noticed that I was in a very unfamiliar room, with an unfamiliar girl sitting next to my bed, staring into space. I moved my head to get a better look at her, but as soon as I moved she was pulled back from her thoughts and looked right at me.
Her eyes were the first things that stuck me. Staring at me were two bright greenish-gold orbs, immediately making me think of a cat. Next thing I noticed was how sharp her features were. She seemed to be made of angles and nothing else. Long black hair hung to the middle of her back in a perfectly straight sheet.
"So you're finally up, huh?" She spoke, and I was struck with the realization that she was the owner of the rough voice from the last time I was semi-conscious.
"Who-?" I tried to ask, but my voice came out scratchy, getting stuck in my throat.
"Rikki." She answered simply, providing no other information. As she stood up and I noticed just how tall she was. She stood well over six feet, and muscle filled out her whole frame.
"Rik, who're you talkin' to?" Another voice called out from the other side of me.
I turned to see a girl enter the room, the first thing going through my head was that she was the polar opposite of the first girl. She was probably just over five feet tall, with shaggy dirty-blonde hair that didn't even reach her shoulders. Her eyes were a pretty hazel, but much more brown then green. Where the first girl, Rikki I guess, was all sharp angles, this girl seemed to be more curved; yet upon closer inspection I could tell she was just as muscled as the first girl. Really, she was probably the most adorable girl I had ever seen in my life. She also reminded me of a particular pixie, but I refused to let my mind settle on that topic.
"Oh, you're awake." She grinned at me as she pranced over to Rikki's side.
"Um…" I stuttered, very unsure what was going on.
"Sorry, this is probably really freaky, isn't it? I'm Danni, and this," she motioned to the tall girl, "is Rikki."
"Where am I?" I couldn't help it; it was the first thing that came to mind.
"Somewhere safe." A third voice sounded out. This one was also familiar; I immediately recognized it as the other voice from the conversation from earlier. Looking over at her, my jaw dropped slightly.
Standing at a height just under six feet, this girl had long wavy light blonde hair that reached under her shoulders, with a single black streak on the left side, opposite of the bangs hanging at an angle to the right side of her face. Two bright blue eyes studied me as I studied her, and an eyebrow rose in questioning. Running along the left side of her face, barely missing her eye was a scar, slightly faded over time, that ran from her hairline into her shirt. Just like the other two girls she was subtly muscular, and gave off a slightly wild aura.
But it wasn't her appearance that had me at a loss for words, but even I had to admit she was rather breathtaking, no it was the distinct feeling that I knew exactly who she was. The strange feeling that she was a familiar, and even comforting presence in my life.
"I'm Katherine, but everyone here just calls me Kat." She walked up to the bed and sat down on the corner, eying me carefully. "Now Bella, I need you to tell me what you can remember, then I can explain everything."
"What I remember?" I thought back to the last time I was awake and moving around. "I went for a hike, and found the meadow I was looking for. Then someone came to the meadow." I was hesitant to continue; worried that they would think I was crazy.
"Bella, we know all about vampires, you don't have to worry about sharing that secret." Kat prompted.
"Oh… Well, then, a vampire came into the clearing. He was going to kill me, I remember him hurting me. Then… I remember something coming to save me, but… it can't be possible."
"I assure you, if it seems impossible to humans, it probably is possible to the supernatural community." Kat smirked.
"Three giant cats came out of the woods and saved me." I muttered.
"You're the cats, aren't you?" The realization hit me.
"Yes, now what else do you remember?" Kat asked, clearly wanting me to continue and not dwell on the fact that the three girls in the room with me could turn into giant felines.
"Then one bit me…" The memory came rushing back. "Why aren't I in a coma or something? I remember so much pain and blood." I sat up, examining myself. There was no pain from my arm or ribs; the only strange thing was a slight tingling on my right side. Rolling up my shirt I let out a gasp. Marring my side was the distinct pattern of a bite mark, already scarred over.
"The bite healed all your wounds, that's why I did it. Sadly, all changed cats bear their mark for life. That'll most likely be the only injury you ever carry with you permanently." She explained to me.
"Changed cats? What the hell does that even mean? And what do you mean the only injury I'll ever carry? If you're a 'cat' why do you have that scar?" I shot off questions at the girl.
"One question at a time." She laughed at my panic, which made me slightly angry, but she ignored that and continued. "To answer your question about my scar, well, there are certain things that will scar our skin, other shifters for one, but hopefully you'll never have to deal with that. Now what would you like to know next?"
"What are you?" I figured I'd get right to it considering they were obviously not human.
"We've been called many things. Werebeasts, werecats, demons, monsters, gods, but in reality we are shapeshifters. Humans granted the ability to hold the form of animals." She explained.
"Alright, you mentioned something about the bite healing me, what's that all about?"
"As far as I know, every race of shapeshifters is different. A benefit of our particular type is the ability to change humans into shifters. Once the virus has infected a human the body's physiology is changed to that of a shifter's, which includes the ability to repair itself very quickly. In essence, a bite from a shifter can heal almost anything."
"So you infected me?" I blanched at the realization.
"I had to." For the first time Kat's voice broke and I was struck with the memory of the snow leopard whimpering in response to my pain. "You were dying. That leech broke your ribs so that both of your lungs were punctured and filling with blood. Mixed with the fact that your shoulder and arm were shattered and the almost asphyxiation you suffered, there was no way you could have made it to the hospital in time. Also…"
"Also what?" I prompted, feeling anger rise in me. This girl owed me an explanation now.
"I don't know how to explain it, but when I saw you something in me was pulled to you. I couldn't let you die, and I didn't even know you." She tried to explain.
"What does that even mean?" I asked.
"We don't know." Rikki spoke up for the first time, pulling my attention away from Kat. "But you should have heard her when she saw you lying there dying. It was pathetic."
"Rikki, it was not pathetic, it was sweet! Honestly I thought she had found her Imprint for a while there." Danni chastised the other girl, smacking her arm.
"Imprint?" I asked, picking out the one word that seemed very important for some reason.
"Do you believe in soul mates?" Kat asked from the foot of the bed, staring at the wall instead of me.
"Yes." I answered without a second of consideration.
"Well that makes that easier. See, with shifters, we know the exact moment we meet our soul mate. It's like an unstoppable pull towards that person. The drive to be with, protect, provide, and be whatever they need you to be. We feel that like a punch to the heart when we meet our Imprint."
"Am I your Imprint?" I asked hesitantly. I wasn't sure what I was going to do if I was, I mean, I wasn't even into girls as far as I knew.
"No." She answered, looking back to me with a small sad smile. "No, but I thought you were for a little while. For some reason I had a pull to you, but it was nothing like those two dorks described the Imprint bond as." She motioned to the other two shifters.
"Wait, you two are…"
"Yes, do you have a problem with that?" Rikki growled at me.
"No! No, it's just, you two seem so opposite. It's hard to imagine you two together." I quickly explained, not wanting a pissed off shifter on my hands.
"Rikki, don't go off on the poor girl. She's still probably in shock!" Danni told the tall girl, and then turned to address me. "Don't worry about it, nobody ever thinks we're together."
"Anyway, the pull Kat felt towards you felt similar to the Imprint bond." Rikki told me.
"Yeah, it felt like a fraction of the pull that Rikki and I feel towards each other." Danni explained.
"What does that mean?" I asked Kat.
"No idea. We've never come across something like this before. But were getting off topic. The main thing is that now you're a shifter like us, and you have a decision to make. You can go out on your own, and try to figure all this out, or you can join our pride." Kat told me.
"Well, the only social big cat is the lion, and groups of lions are called prides." Kat explained with a small laugh.
"It's also kind of a joke considering we're all so out and proud." Danni said, sitting herself down on the bed across from Kat.
"Oh, that's actually kind of funny." I laughed for the first time since I had woken up. Actually it was the first time I had laughed in a really long time, and it felt damn good.
I then realized what that meant about the blonde girl sitting on the foot of my bed. My gaze met hers, and a strange fluttering began in my stomach, though I had no idea what it meant. Kat, upon noticing me staring at her, threw a smirk at me, causing a blush to cover my cheeks.
"The full moon is tomorrow, and that'll be the first day you shift, so you can figure out what you want to do then." Kat told me, thankfully choosing to ignore my blush.
"Wait, you have to shift on a full moon? Like werewolves?" I asked.
"Yes, we do. The werewolf myth had to come from somewhere. Humans tend to take small pieces and parts from various supernaturals to put together their stories."
"Okay then." With my curiosity sated for now I didn't know what else to say. Then a thought hit me; Charlie. "Um, does my dad know where I am?"
"He thinks that you're in a group home." Rikki deadpanned.
"Bella, you've been out for five days, we needed some story to cover up your disappearance. After asking around town we got a pretty good picture of your mental health these past few months, so the story of a mental breakdown was believable. Your dad thinks you're in therapy for abandonment issues." Kat explained calmly, trying to keep me level.
"And he just went with that?" I asked, wondering why he wouldn't want to see me.
"As far as he knows, any contact with your past could relapse you in the next two weeks. That gives us enough time to familiarize you with what you are. Then you can go back to him." Danni told me, squeezing my leg in a comforting gesture.
"Or you could just stay with us." Kat added with a smile. "It would be easier to be around people you don't have to hide from."
"That's a lot to think about." I said.
"Of course. Take your time; we'll leave you in peace for now. But tomorrow, be ready." Kat patted my leg before getting up to leave, Rikki and Danni soon following.
Feeling a sudden fatigue wash over me, I settled back into the pillows, deciding to sleep on all the information that was given to me. But I couldn't stop freaking about tomorrow, and what shifting would bring into my life. Eventually the fatigue won out, and I was thrust into a dreamland full of running felines and a set of glowing green eyes.
Please review and let me know what you think! I have a bit more already written, but feedback would be really helpful, whether positive or negative!